15 May 2013

Census data published today reveals the number of five to seven year old young carers in England has increased by around 80% over the last decade to 9,371.

And a staggering 166,363 children in England are caring for their parents, siblings and family members. This is up by a fifth from when the last Census was conducted in 2001.

Nearly 15,000 children up to the age of 17 are providing more than 50 hours of care every week.

Despite this being the first official statistic to be published in ten years, it is likely to massively underrepresent the true picture, according to the Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) partnership¹, led by The Children’s Society and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

The Children’s Society’s own analysis also reveals that young carers are one and a half times more likely to have a long-standing illness or disability or special educational need than their peers. 

This is backed-up by today's census, which reveals that more than 2000 young carers have 'bad' or 'very bad' health.

Hidden from view

Young carers are lagging behind in school and missing out on their childhoods because of the demands placed on them, according to Hidden from View - released today by The Children’s Society to coincide with census statistics.   

Hidden from View analyses government data tracking 15,000 children across England². It reveals the significant long-term impact that caring has on a child’s life, confirming The Children’s Society’s experience of working with young carers and their families throughout England.   

Hidden from View findings include:

  • Young carers are one and half times more likely to have a special educational need or a long-standing illness or disability 
  • One in 12 young carers is caring for more than 15 hours per week
  • Around one in 20 miss school because of their caring responsibilities
  • Young carers have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level - the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers
  • Young carers are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to be from black, Asian or minority ethnic communities, and are twice as likely to not speak English as their first language 
  • The average annual income for families with a young carer is £5,000 less than families who do not have a young carer
  • Young carers are more likely than the national average to be ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) between the ages of 16 and 19
  • Despite improved awareness of the needs of young carers, there is no strong evidence that young carers are any more likely than their peers to come into contact with support agencies

The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive, Matthew Reed, said: 'This new figure is shocking enough, but we know from years of working with young carers that it is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Many often incredibly vulnerable young carers are slipping through the net, undetected by the support services they so desperately need. 

Missing out on childhood

'Hopefully part of this massive rise is down to parents and children themselves recognising they are young carers. But it is clear that there is much, much more to be done.

'Caring can cost children dearly. They are missing out on their childhoods and school, gaining fewer qualifications and job opportunities and therefore are less likely to earn a decent living in the future. 

'We are calling for support for these children and their families to prevent them from caring in the first place. All children must be allowed to thrive and enjoy their childhoods. One young person remaining under the radar, out of sight of the very authorities there to support them, is one too many.'

The Children’s Society is working with a range of organisations through the Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) partnership, to provide a platform for young carers to be heard and provide them with better access to practical advice and support.

Support the whole family

It is calling for barriers to good practice to be removed to ensure agencies work effectively together to support the whole family. This would improve children’s lives and reduce costs in the long term.

Big Lottery Fund’s England Director, Dharmendra Kanani, said: 'Young people are sometimes the only carer for their parent or close relative. Often this comes at the cost of their education and future employment prospects; often these young people live in poverty; and often this is hidden from wider society. 

'BIG’s support for the YCiF partnership is part our wider aspiration to explore better ways of supporting young carers -  and involving them in the process -  so that together we can increase our understanding of how best to ensure young carers can lead fulfilling lives.'

The Children’s Society argues that 2013 provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the government to consolidate key adult and children’s legislation to make sure children are prevented from taking on inappropriate caring. 

Media enquiries

For more information please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or by email. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508. 

Notes to editor

*This represents a numerical increase, but not a percentage increase, as the population has also increased.

  1. The Young Carers in Focus (YCiF) programme, led by The Children’s Society, brings partners together from YMCA Fairthorne Manor, DigitalMe, Rethink Mental Illness and The Fatherhood Institute. The four-year programme, running until 2016, is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. 

  2. The Children’s Society’s ‘Hidden from View’ report analyses data from a government study of 15,000 young people, aged 13 and 14, over a seven-year period, from 2004 – 2011. The ‘Longitudinal Study of Young People in England’ (LSYPE) was commissioned by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).  Of the 15,427 young people who completed the first wave, 689 (4.4%) identified themselves as young carers.
  3. The Census data is available on the Office of National Statistics website.
  4. YCiF aims to give young carers a voice so they can share their experiences and improve public understanding about the issues they face. More than 200 children are being recruited as “champions” to help raise awareness.
  5. The Yong Carers in Focus partners are:
  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and give young carers a voice. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. 
  • The Fatherhood Institute is the UK's fatherhood ‘think-and-do’ tank (charity reg. no. 1075104). Our vision is for a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their father and any father-figures; supports both mothers and fathers as earners and carers; and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children.
  • Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness. For 40 years we have brought people together to support each other. We run services and support groups that change people’s lives and challenge attitudes about mental illness. We directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone. We give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions.
  • YMCA Fairthorne Manor is committed to ‘championing and adding value to young lives by providing experiences that challenge, enable and develop the individual'. In 2000 the Young carers Festival (YCF) was created by YMCA Fairthorne Group in partnership with The Children’s Society. The annual event brings together up to 1,500young carers from across the UK for a weekend of fun, relaxation and consultation. 
  • DigitalMe runs a series of projects and programmes that put the power of social media in the hands of young people; the impact on the young people involved can be life-changing. Many participants, and the people who support them, have demonstrated enormous improvements in confidence, aspiration, and attitude to learning and life skills that will last them a lifetime. Messages from YCiF will reach 450,000 young people in over 9,000 schools over four years, through the makewav.es website

Young Carers in Focus is funded by:

  • Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery. BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6bn. Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888, Out of hours: 07867 500 572
  • BIG’s £30m Youth In Focus programme is funding projects that support three targeted groups of young people: young carers; young people leaving care; and young people leaving youth offending institutions, helping them through key transitions in their lives. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund are available on their website.